Arkansas Regional Coalition of the Ouachitas Arkansas Regional Coalition of the Ouachitas serves Scott, Polk, and Montgomery counties or it may be best to say "west-central Arkansas" to drive economic develop and tourism.
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Arkansas Regional Coalition of the Ouachitas


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Saturday April 27th at 9:00A.M. Mount Ida Shooting Range
The Entry and Sponsor forms are attached to the bottom of this article.

NASHVILLE—Seven Montgomery County residents toured the Southwest Arkansas Farmers’ Market Friday, February 22 and heard first-hand tips on how to make the proposed Montgomery County Outdoor Market a success.

Debra Bolding, market manager for the Howard County project told the group that while location is important, establishing rules for operation and showing what growers can expect will help keep the project on track in the beginning and as the market grows.

Growers will want to be a part of a successful operation and will spread the word. In addition the participation of local residents who bake bread and desserts will add much to the event, she noted.

Creation of a successful farmers market will require a lot of coordination in the early days but will offer rewards to both those marketing produce and products as well as a good place for area residents to purchase locally produced fruits and vegetables. Those fresh items will give a healthy alternative to products packed and shipped into the area.

While the Montgomery County Outdoor Market is one of the goals of ARCO, a three county coalition between Montgomery, Scott and Polk counties, it has been a dream of local organizers for several years. Pat Smith, who is spearheading development of a demonstration garden located on Lucerne St., near the old courthouse annex, said the garden is already being developed.

“We want to show local residents that a good organic, low maintenance garden can be built relatively inexpensively,” Smith noted.

 Other projects in Montgomery County will include development of several new festival events as well as the monthly outdoor market, according to Kaye Shrout, county chair of University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service.

Shrout, along with Maryanne Davis, Pat Smith, Laura Relic, Brad McGinley, Marge Skinner and Derwood Brett spent time with Bolding, Rita Rector and Jean Ince in Nashville Friday where they also toured the demonstration garden, which Is located at the site of Howard County’s farmers market.

While in Nashville, the group learned of the necessity of having bylaws to ensure that each grower and vendor knows what is expected of him.

All state guidelines on packaging and proper storage of fresh eggs and vegetables will have to be observed. In addition, all baked items as well as jellies will have to be labeled with content information.

- Montgomery County News

By LeAnn Dilbeck
The Arkansas Regional Coalition of the Ouachitas (ARCO) met last week with representatives from its three counties, Polk, Scott, and Montgomery. Charettes had been conducted in each of the three counties and presented to each county individually but last week’s meeting presented the results of all three jointly, revealing an enormous hidden/under-developed potential for tourism in the region.
Before the almost 40 in attendance saw the presentation, members approved the addition of two new board members, Derwood Brett and John Vacca.
Vacca then reported on a two-day three-city tour in northern Arkansas in that ARCO members attended in November 2012.  Presenting the highlights of what they learned from a number of communities and speakers, Vacca said they were encouraged to not be discouraged by “push-back.” Harrison, Ark., which has been tremendously successfully with their downtown revitalization explained that their efforts will not always be met with enthusiasm. They also learned about the importance of grants from Leslie, Ark., which in Vacca’s words, “is located in the middle of nowhere.” A town of just 441 people had received a total of $600,000 from a variety of institutions. Members noted that the Rural Community Alliance could be a very beneficial resource in finding and securing those grants.
Trey Clark presented a $2,500 check on behalf of the Walton Family Foundation for the Partners for the Future initiative. To find out more, check out  

LeAnn Dilbeck
Polk County Pulse
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Montgomery County News
February 3, 2013
Planning continues by Montgomery County members of ARCO (Arkansas Regional Coalition of the Ouachitas) as they work to organize a model outdoor market. Group participants seek community input from stakeholders to help develop monthly activities designed to bring tourists to the area and help local craftsmen and producers gain new markets for products.
According to Pat Smith, who serves on the planning committee as well as being involved in several other community projects, one of the first events to be undertaken will be an Open Air Market. "This will be more than just a farmer's market. It will be a place for the entire family to gather and experience a variety of activities."
Smith added that the focus of the events—initially scheduled for one Saturday each month—will be healthy living. "We want to brand Montgomery County as a healthy destination for visitors."
"In addition to local farmer and gardener produce stands, the organizers envision, "there will be cooking stations using locally grown food. Those who attend the market will be able to gather recipes from vendors as well as tips on food preparation."
As the monthly event matures, organizers hope to increase participation by seeking specialty craftsmen who will come to the open air market and actually show how they produce products, Smith said. "We have local people who can show us how they make cheese, bake cookies and cakes, can jellies and prepare honey for sale. We are going to stress vendors from the three-county ARCO area which includes Polk, Scott and Montgomery counties."
Planners are looking for a sponsor who will take ownership of the ongoing project. Representatives met with a portion of the chamber board in January. Smith said, "some of the chamber board members were enthusiastic and agreed conceptually that the Chamber of Commerce would be the best group to manage the open air market on an ongoing basis. But, they were not prepared to formally agree to that until they hired a new director and verify that their event insurance would cover additional events."
In several brainstorming sessions ideas have been presented that would include trades and crafts such as knife sharpening, crystal identification and the proper way to clean them, wheat grinding, sorghum making, soap making and wood carving.
It was also suggested that information be available for activities that might attract repeat visits by those who attend the open air market. "Many of our visitors do not realize the wide variety of activities the area has to offer," Smith added. " We plan to have members of the Traildogs (a local group credited with building nearly 50 miles of hiking trails in Montgomery and Garland counties) on hand to tell hikers and bikers about area trails. We expect they will have maps on hand to show visitors where the trail is located, and perhaps even conduct hikes if interest warrants."
Activities will be planned for all age groups with the potential for musical jam sessions, 3 on 3 basketball tournaments and smash ball. There are basketball goals at Forest Jones Park and a tennis court that could be used for various events.
Another suggestion to help develop publicity could be a guided trip for photographers and planned excursions on various biking/hiking trails in the area.
Representatives of the planning committee have met with the Mount Ida Area Chamber of Commerce and Mount Ida City Council. The group also plans to present the Open Air Market idea to Quorum Court members in an effort to get them up to speed as well.
Plans are being finalized for a February 22 group visit to Nashville to talk with organizers and see firsthand that area's outdoor market. The trip is scheduled for later in February. More information will be provided at a later date.
Smith concluded, "We want to time these events to tie in with all aspects of the area. We can make a difference for our local communities."

Following the final charrette work session held in mid October in Waldron with Dr. Mark Peterson and Mr. Ed Levy, the Scott County ARCO Group planned a Cast-iron Cooking event to further engage the community with the ideas and promising opportunities that emerged from the previous community development meetings that had been held in Waldron.

Dinner, music, and a meeting were all served up on Monday, October 29th at Waldron City Hall.  Scott County Judge James Forbes and Scott County Extension Agent Shaun Rhoades lined the sidewalk with cast-iron Dutch ovens that sizzled all afternoon with the slow-cooked foods that were served that evening.  Mayor Don Owens was on hand to assist and several City employees enjoyed sampling the foods.   Local musicians entertained the crowd of approximately 50 people who also learned more about ARCO and the “Partners for the Future” initiative.

The next local meeting is planned for November 26th.  Join us for this important opportunity to envision and plan for our future.

This coming Saturday, October 27th, Hog Country Cycles and The Branding Iron Restaurant will be holding a Grand Opening Event from 9am to 5pm. The day will begin with a poker run at 9am, bike games from 2:30 to 3:30, Halloween costume contest from 3-3:30, there will be a bike show from 3:30-4:30 and much more. Come and enjoy live music all day and food in between! The Chamber will be having a joint ribbon cutting for the two businesses at 11am. Attached are flyers for the different events of the day. Come on down and celebrate with these businesses that have made the corner of Sherwood and Seventh Street a busy and beautiful place to be.

Montgomery County's Traildogs won another statewide award recently at the Arkansas Wildlife Federations Annual Governor's 2012 Conservation Achievement Awards Banquet. Over three hundred people were in attendance at the Bryant Arkansas Civic Center for this 51st awards banquet held on August 25. Volunteers prepared and served a hardy meal of wild game fresh baked bread and homemade peach and cherry cobbler and the Arkansas Game & Fish organization had a number of live birds of prey on display providing an interesting workshop on the feeding and nesting habits of these beautiful birds.
The AWF presented fourteen awards and the Traildogs received the 2012 Conservation Organization of the Year Award for the seven year effort developing the Lake Ouachita Vista Trail system along the southern shores of Lake Ouachita. This is the second stewed award this group of volunteers have received this year having received the Governor's 2012 Henry Award for Outstanding Volunteer Service in March of this year.

Citizens and leaders of Montgomery, Polk, and Scott Counties now have a unique opportunity to help shape the future of the three county area. An ARCO Partners Vision Survey is now available for citizens to complete – either on-line or in hard copy.
Partners for a Creating a Vibrant, Sustainable Future is a broad-based initiative to engage leaders and citizens in Montgomery, Polk, and Scott Counties to create economic opportunities, enhance our quality of life, and preserve our natural environment. It is sponsored by the Arkansas Regional Coalition for the Ouachitas (ARCO), Rich Mountain Community College, and the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service.

"In the last 10 years, the ARCO region has lost 2,224 jobs, and if this trend continues, it will lose 1,972 jobs in the next 10," states Gar Eisele, Chairman of the Arkansas Regional Coalition for the Ouachitas. "We need to get serious about seeking new opportunities for our citizens, and this survey is a great way to start by finding out what people in the three county region want for our future."
The survey asks what the people of Montgomery, Polk, and Scott Counties want to preserve as well as what they want to improve. "The ideas and feedback from the survey will be invaluable for the region to move forward," states Mark Peterson, Professor –Community and Economic Development with the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service. "It is the people of the three counties who are most knowledgeable about the district, and what it needs." Peterson is assisting the ARCO region through Extension's Breakthrough Solutions Program.


The survey results will be compiled, shared with the public, and used in developing a blueprint for the future of the region. For more information about the Arkansas Coalition for the Ouachitas, go to

Arkansas's Congressional Delegation, Governor Mike Beebe, & Arkansas State Parks, Recreation, and Travel Commission, urge forest service to continue to try to find an acceptable Alternative plan for the Wolf Pen Gap trail system.


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The Arkansas Regional Coalition of the Ouachitas (ARCO) continues gaining momentum in their efforts to take a proactive approach to attracting business and industry to rural west-central Arkansas. While many towns and rural communities across Arkansas continue experiencing business closures, this group is actually implementing tools to tackle the problem of a struggling global economy head-on.

During their January meeting held at Mena Mountain Resort in Mena, Ark. the group launched their new website designed to market the region to prospective business and industries considering the mid-West.

ARCO's mission is "to lead in promoting and advancing sustainable prosperity and well-being for the people of West Central Arkansas through broad-based development including economic community, educational and leadership initiatives." Adding value to the old adage, 'strength in numbers,' ARCO's leaders and visionaries recognize that as lowly-populated areas, it is difficult to achieve success but by forming a coalition of counties building on their commonalities, "we can be much more politically relevant," said ARCO Chairman Gar Eisele. "While it is not a perfect comparison, our coalition will function much like a regional Chamber of Commerce."

The biggest stumbling block for industrial development of rural west-central Arkansas remains the incompletion of I-49. Executive Director Gard Wayt spoke during ARCO's meeting Wednesday, January 18, about the increased pressure for Arkansas to complete the "missing loop" of Interstate, that when complete, will connect three countries, Canada, United States, and Central America.

As Wayt reported to the approximately 30 regional government and business leaders in attendance, Missouri and Louisiana will successfully complete their projects in 2012 and Arkansas is feeling mounting pressure as they remain the only "missing loop." Wayt said that the completion of I49 would be the "biggest and best thing to happen to Arkansas," a sentiment now being shared by Governor Mike Beebe as he recently endorsed the I49 Coalition and their efforts to complete the 20+ year project.

With both Missouri and Louisiana seeing their completions, all eyes are fixed on Arkansas, and receiving support from Federal delegates from all of the states impacted by the incompletion of I49.

Wayt said the I49 Coalition is now seeking "out of the box" funding to complete construction as the traditional 80/20 funding is becoming "suspect." He also added that the revenue received has never been indexed for inflation, which has also had a negative impact. Wayt explained that I30 was built on a 15-year bond and as the end of that 15 years is quickly approaching, money will now be reinvested into repair on I30 and not earmarked for the completion of I49.

Buzz Garner asked Wayt if the coalition received the money today for the entire cost of the project, how long would it take to complete. Wayt estimated five years and commended the Arkansas Highway Department in their efficient ability to construct roads.

A few in attendance spoke of concerns for the state's "natural" beauty and how the construction could detrimentally impact the area's tourism industry. ARCO leaders quickly explained that they want to work collaboratively to increase the tourism industry as that is the single strongest commonality among ARCO's members, Polk, Montgomery and Scott Counties. Eisele said, "As we move forward, ARCO will continue to identify assets common to all three counties, such as tourism, and make an effort to leverage those assets to our advantage. Most recently, ARCO showed its strength when addressing ATV access to our National Forests and the impact it could have on ATV tourism. We are now discussing the lack of broadband access to our coalition area."

Founders of ARCO found motivation as the Arkansas Economic Development Commission's (AEDC) focus centered around "regionalism." Eisele explained, "As per the Governor's Strategic Plan for Economic Development, AEDC is encouraging communities to look to neighboring communities and counties as partners. The result is that we are now on the AEDC radar and if a business is interested in coming to Arkansas, and particularly in our coalition area, we will now have the opportunity to take advantage of that situation."

For now, the coalition is proud of their most recent accomplishment, the launch of the website. Eisele said there were many to acknoledge that have made the project into fruition, "Professor Otto J. Loewer of the University of Arkansas who brought us his expertise in coalition building. Professor Loewer has graciously agreed to continue on as an advistor to our coalition. I would like to thank Senator Larry Teague for his help in our obtaining a grant from AEDC to build our new website. And also, I want to recognize our website committee members: Chris Ray and Maureen Walther of Mount Ida, Sherry Johnston of Waldron, and Maureen Keese of Mena...and when you visit, you'll see why I would like to give a special thanks to the very talented folks at 701Corp in Poteau, Okla who built our website."

LeAnn Dilbeck


Polk County Pulse

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